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Opinion

Garry Tan’s tweet was a mistake. His opponents are the bigger problem

A man stands in front of graffiti-covered walls, with a blue color overlay.
Source: Illustration by RJ Mickelson/The Standard; photo by Noah Berger for The Standard

I’ve known Garry Tan as a friend, mentor and investor since 2011. His mentorship was critical to my success in building my San Francisco-based business, Humble Bundle, which sells video games and other content over the internet. With Garry’s help, we’ve now grown to nearly 100 employees and have raised over $240 million for charity in support of organizations like the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign and so many others.  

And mind you, I am just one of the countless San Francisco entrepreneurs who have similar stories to tell about Garry. I know him to be a passionate advocate for San Francisco and a passionate critic of the self-aggrandizing politics that have turned San Francisco from a world-class city into exhibit No. 1 for the dangers of unchecked progressivism.

I also know that he’s human, and that he made a mistake with his post on X a few days ago, using the language from rap lyrics while referencing several members of the Board of Supervisors. It’s a post that he withdrew immediately, and he apologized to the board and the public for his actions.

Now, opponents like Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin and Supervisor Connie Chan are seizing on that post—and ignoring the subsequent apology—in an attempt to demonize Garry and his centrist, moderate Democratic message. That’s the height of hypocrisy for two of the people most responsible for the city’s decline.

Garry let his passion for his city spill over late one night, after drinking, and after years of watching the city he loves being allowed to deteriorate into a haven for crime, drug addiction and homeless encampments. He made a mistake, and he knows it and has apologized for it. 

But his mission remains as vital and powerful as ever: making San Francisco a vibrant, prosperous and safe place. And he understands that to clean up the city, we have to start with cleaning out City Hall. The people who are trying to demonize Garry over a single X post are the very same people who are directly responsible for the state of the city today, where drug users face no consequences for shooting up in the middle of the street, tent encampments trap residents in fear and storefronts remain boarded up. 

Peskin has been a force at City Hall for decades (and has been known for his frequent abusive tirades against his opponents). He has been instrumental in crafting the policies the city has implemented over the past decade and steadfast in his opposition to the kind of moderate and sensible policies Garry champions, policies that will bring the city back.

Chan apprenticed under Peskin and learned the same politics that are destroying San Francisco. She has consistently opposed projects that would bring more housing to a city that is thousands of units shy of the state’s mandates and its residents’ needs.

Garry, on the other hand, has called out the progressives in charge of the city for dithering while the police force remains understaffed by hundreds of officers, crime goes unpunished and open-air drug markets flourish with deadly results.

In the wake of California reducing penalties for drug possession from felonies to misdemeanors 10 years ago, the epidemic of death has soared in the city, especially as fentanyl has become a drug of choice. There were more than 800 overdose deaths in the city last year. San Francisco now has the fourth-highest level of fatal overdoses among populous counties in the nation and twice the national average. 

An examination published in the New York Times this week compared San Francisco’s approach to policing drug use with that of Portugal. In every single category, San Francisco’s progressive policies were wrong and the results disastrous: Portugal’s death rate dropped to 0.6 fatalities per 100,000 residents. San Francisco’s soared to more than 60.

All these uncorrected ills that Garry shines a light on are the reason that thousands of people have left the city over the past several years. Visitors from abroad who used to flock to San Francisco now avoid it. Businesses are moving out and contributing to a citywide decline. I just saw that Jeffrey’s Toys in the Financial District is shutting down after 86 years. It’s community losses like these that motivate Garry. And it’s the politicians responsible for the situation who are trying to cover up their failures by spotlighting Garry’s single mistake.

The overreaction and outcry from politicians is part of their organized campaign to reject commonsense solutions for San Francisco. The truth is, as Garry points out so well, as long as the progressive leftists dominate San Francisco politics, we will never return the city to the greatness its people deserve.

John Graham is an angel investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He co-founded Humble Bundle in 2010, and it was part of Y Combinator in 2011. He is a homeowner in San Francisco.